AJ Masthay’s “The Terminal”

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , , on November 12th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

“The Terminal” Sketches – AJ Masthay


Amidst 2012, a year when official Phish posters seemed to dwell in the uninspired, fan-turned-professional artist, AJ Masthay, has continued to crank out some of the more visually stunning and thought provoking prints in the scene. Using time-honored techniques in a field that is becoming increasingly digital, AJ’s hand-carved, linoleum block prints have gained widespread recognition over the past few years with hallmarks of brilliant colors, thick coats of ink, and bold-eye-catching imagery. I recently caught up with AJ to discuss his transformative year and his upcoming MSG quadtych, “The Terminal.” (Click on images to enlarge.)


MM: It’s been a year since we sat down to talk. Your 2012 work has been hailed as some of your best work to date. You knocked your Phish series out of the park and picked up some official work for Further tour. How has your printmaking progressed over 2012?

AJM: 2012 was big for me, no doubt. The biggest change on my end was finally taking the plunge and pursuing my career as an artist full time, Feb 29th – Leap day – was my last day putting on the collar shirt and tie. Knock on wood, it’s been one of the best decisions of my life. I now have the luxury of devoting every waking moment to creating art and growing Masthay Studios.

2012 was also a year of refining techniques for me. I consider myself a craftsman, you know old school apprentice and master shit where you live and breathe your craft and strive for perfection. The more disciplined you become, your work will naturally become more refined. I created a new registration system for my Vandercook press this year allowing for much tighter alignment between plates. This is critical for achieving the kinds of detail you see in my recent works, specifically all the Furthur pieces from both the summer and fall.  I’ve been printing for almost 20 years now and it always amazes me how much there is to still learn.

Let’s talk little bit about your second consecutive New Year’s Run quadtych! Moray eels, pigeons, a robot and Grand Central Station—what was your inspiration and vision behind this year’s prints?

12.28.12 (Masthay)

Let me start out by saying I love creating the triptychs and now the quadtychs. The size of my work is limited by the size of the bed on my printing press, about 15″ x 22″. The print sets give me the freedom to stretch my legs and flesh out larger compositions while still working within those constraints. Being born and raised in Connecticut, I’ve had the luxury of going into the city pretty much whenever I felt like it, and 99% of the time that meant hopping a train and heading to Grand Central. It’s just one of icons of Manhattan and with the shear volume of people coming through that beautifully ornate terminal, most anyone living or visiting the City will have some type of emotional connection to the space.

So I had my environment chosen, now to develop the cast of characters and story that will take place in that environment. An MSG new years run has a certain amount of nostalgia for me, like that old hat that just feels right when you put it on. We’ve all been trucking into the city for so many years now, there’s a comfort and familiarity to the whole experience and I love that. This is where the robot comes from—it is a direct reference to the Harpua story from 1997 (Lost in Space robot, pentagrams, and udder ball) but it also represents nostalgia and all the amazing experiences we’ve been blessed with [in that building].

There is a definite darkness to the eels in these prints. Was there a specific message you were trying to convey through the eels?

12.29.12 (Masthay)

Ahh, the eels; the eels represent so much it’s hard to know where to start. On one level the eels bring a fishiness to the prints, representing sea creatures so often associated with the band. But these eels aren’t in the ocean, they’re in Grand Central Station, and they’re emanating from a smashed disco ball—a NYE 2009 reference. If you look at the emotion being portrayed by the eels in each pane or vignette of the quad, you’ll see the emotion that I personally feel I go through during these four-night runs. In the first pane the eels are curious and inquisitive, checking out the robot and wondering how things will progress in this run. The eels are obviously comfortable in their environment. In the second pane they are fully engulfed in the RAGE. The rage continues in the third pane but the hunger becomes more and more evident—both literal hunger and the hunger for things to come. Finally, the full on face melting of New Year’s Eve and just being slayed by the greatest band on earth. Darkness—maybe emotion—absolutely.

This is the third consecutive MSG holiday run—has it become increasingly hard to think of geographically relevant imagery, or do you have ideas just waiting to come out?

That’s’ the beauty of New York City, there is so much to work with, the difficult part is tying it into MSG and the shows. Being able to do that and make it all feel natural, not forced, is where the creativity comes into play.

This quad looks a bit more detailed and refined than a lot of your previous prints. Is this a natural progression of your work?

This is partially the natural progression I spoke about earlier, implementing new techniques to allow for greater detail and better registration, but is also a direct result of choosing an environment like Grand Central Station. The place is stunningly beautiful, as ornate as any Newport mansion, but meant for all to utilize and enjoy. I also purposely did not hold myself to a certain number of colors on these, I think there’s something like eleven total colors, some of which will be, literally, mixed on the prints by layering. I Facebooked a message a few days ago saying “I’m not sure how I’m going to do this,” and the shear number of colors on these quads is what I was referring to. It’s going to be challenging, but that’s part of the fun.

I really love the 29th print with the train and the eels bursting out of the image, as well as the gas masked train conductor alluding to last year’s “MSG Rapture” quad. Do you conceive the central imagery of each print individually and then figure out how to combine them, or figure out one scene in totality and figure out how to split them up?

12.30.12 (Masthay)

These print sets typically start out with the larger composition, feeling out the flow throughout all four prints and how they will work as a set. Once that is laid out, the true challenge is developing the composition within each pane so that they can each stand on their own as an individual work of art but also as a part of the whole. There’s give and take throughout the entire process and I go through A LOT of erasers. If you ever get the opportunity to check out any of my original sketches in person, you will see evidence of this process. I see the sketches as a living, breathing entity, constantly changing and growing throughout the creation process. I try one thing, feel it out, and if it works, great, if it doesn’t feel quite right, erase and try again. Many artists use thumbnail sketches or preliminary sketches to work these things out before touching the final piece. Personally, I love the rawness of doing things on the spot, my own personal version of free form jamming I guess, but in a visual context as opposed to audio.

I love how you’ve integrated the show info as tiny details to the print that fit right into the Grand Central motif. How concerned are you in allowing that info (date/locale) to be seen clearly or do you just make sure it’s on there somewhere?

How I handle the text is determined on a print by print basis. Obviously on commissioned work for bands the text needs to be front and center, so sometimes its nice to treat these unofficial pieces more like art prints, almost downplaying the date and venue information. Yes, it’s in there, but it’s not the defining factor of the image nor does it need to be understood to be appreciated.

What’s going on in the NYE print? Is the clock electrocuting the eels or vice versa? Or is that up to the eye of the beholder?

12.31.12 (Masthay)

I love telling stories in my images, but what I don’t do is completely lay out the narrative. I leave that up to the viewer, allowing them to connect to the piece and develop that narrative for themselves. What one person sees could be a completely different story from the person standing next to him, I love that. Is the clock electrocuting the eel or vice versa? I’ll let you decide, but what I really wanted to capture is the energy that is December 31, 2012.

How can people get a hold of this year’s prints? Will they be for sale soon?

Prints will be available for purchase this Friday November 16 at 12 noon EST on MasthayStudios.com. In keeping with Masthay Studios New Year’s Run tradition, I will be documenting the entire process of creating the editions, but this year it’ll all be through Facebook and Twitter with separate content on each. You can look forward to lots and lots of photos of the creation process along with some commentary from yours truly. This is a unique opportunity to actually see your prints being made, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to “Like” Masthay Studios on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.


Jams of the Day: 

Memories from MSG 2011.

Carini -> Tweezer” 12.28.11 II, MSG


Piper” 12.30.11 II, MSG

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Reminder: First Tube Art Show

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , , , on June 13th, 2012 by Mr.Miner

The First Tube Poster show has blown into a full blown scene with printmakers, pinmakers, and all sorts of collectable Phish-inspired art! Here is the final press release about The Mothership Collective‘s First Tube Art Show, taking place this Saturday, June 15th in Atlantic City between 10am and 3pm at Trump Plaza’s Westminster Room. Come join for what will surely be a fun afternoon! Admission is FREE!


First Tube Poster Show

First Tube’, is an art show featuring Phish artists from around the country will be held on Saturday June 16th from 10am-3pm at the Trump Plaza Hotel, Westminster Room, on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Developed and produced by a group of artists and fans known as the Mothership Art Collective, this poster show will be held in the middle of a weekend of Phish, who play nearby Bader Field June 15-17th.

The initial artists announced for First Tube represent some of the best artists in the Phish community and poster art. Longtime Phish artists AJ Masthay, TRiPP, Ryan Kerrigan, John Warner, Erin Cadigan, Noah Phence and Bruce Horan have been a part of many poster shows in the past and each have a large portfolio of concert poster art across a wide range of musical acts. Newcomers Jiggs, Ed Wilson, Lauren Domsky and Branden Otto are featured in their first Phish poster show, as well as writer and author Dave Calarco who will be selling and discussing his book ‘Mr. Miner’s Phish Thoughts’ at the show.

First Tube will also be incorporating the growing area of pin makers and collectors into the show with Party Time Pins, 10 Minute Tube Designs, Pin Me Down and stuPINdous Creations. Brian Kushner of PhanBadge and Adam Davidoff of Phishcoins will also be in attendance, showcasing their unique memorabilia.

"Dunkalope" (Dr.Wookles)

Non-profits include The Mockingbird Foundation which has given grants for music education totaling more than $600,000 over the past 14 years; PhanArt, a book and website created as a way to showcase the art made by Phish fans and raises money for Mockingbird Foundation, and Screens ‘n’ Suds based in Richmond, VA curates beer inspired screenprints to raise money to benefit the National MS Society and other charities with monies totaling nearly $50,000 in the past 4 years.

Phish poster shows have been held over the years with great success, as unique posters made for the Phish shows that weekend and stop on the tour feature some of the best concert art being produced today. First Tube is the first event for 2012 produced by the Mothership Art Collective, a group within the Phish community, comprised of artists and organizations who promote the art inspired by the band Phish. The eclectic artists featured at this event show the broad scope of Phish related art and capture the inspiration of the band in their art. The creative fan base that Phish has makes for amazing art inspired by the band, the locales and the music. The collective will work hard to bring a show to the Phish touring public each year.

In keeping with the great tradition and success of past poster shows, First Tube will offer free entry to all patrons, tubes available for purchase, charitable donations from the event made to the Mockingbird Foundation and the Virginia Mason Foundation (in memory of Shawn Williams). First Tube will feature a wide array of artists with posters, art, pins and other memorabilia to fit any budget. Special edition works, only available at the show, will be available for viewing shortly at www.mothershipartcollective.org.



Bill Graham Civic Center

What: The Bowie Miracle—A contest for one free ticket to see Phish at the Bill Graham Civic Center in San Francisco on Sunday August, 19th 2012, and a free, signed copy of Mr. Miner’s Phish Thoughts.

Why: We have a ticket to miracle, however the miraclee must be a “David Bowie” fan.

The Skinny:  If you don’t have a ticket for the Sunday night BGCC San Francisco run and are a “Bowie” fan this contest is for you! Essentially, we love “Bowie” and we want you to make us understand your love of “Bowie” and, more importantly, how you got “Bowie,” when you got it and why. Maybe you got it from the first time you heard it or maybe it took a few times till the song just clicked for you? Whatever the case may be, tell us about your favorite “Bowie” and/or “Bowie” moment. All you need to do is tell us about it according to the contest rules. Judging is totally subjective and we will pay absolutely no costs for your travel to and from BGCC. One lucky winner submits an essay and gets a ticket to the show. No more, no less.

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“The MSG Rapture” and More with AJ Masthay

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on November 16th, 2011 by Mr.Miner

"The MSG Rapture" - Final Sketch (AJ Masthay)

With New Year’s Run just around the corner, artist and printmaker, AJ Masthay, has been hard at work designing his hotly-anticipated MSG edition. Last year, AJ wowed Phish poster collectors with an awesome triptych that portrayed the inside of Madison Square Garden as an aquarium, playing off the band’s 1993 Holiday Run band’s stage set back in 1993. This year, AJ has created an unprecedented quadtych (four individual posters that combine to from one image) that vividly illustrates a scene of the imagination outside The Garden—”The MSG Rapture. I recently caught up with AJ to discuss his work in progress. (Click images to enlarge)

MM: You’ve had a great summer of Phish printmaking! Fans are really beginning to value your work more than ever—congratulations! Did you see an increase in demand for your prints this summer?

AJM: Thanks! I’ve absolutely seen an increase in demand this summer, especially for the UIC triptychs. I made 125 sets of those and all of them sold at Da Mock Show poster expo in Chicago. It’s always humbling for me to have my artwork in such high demand. I really do appreciate the fact that people enjoy my work. It still blows my mind sometimes when I’m packing orders that are being shipped all over the country and internationally.

Lake Tahoe (Masthay)

MM: Funny you should mention the UIC prints; I really dug that triptych with so much Chicago history woven into the artwork and the unique color scheme that you used. Did you have a favorite of Summer Leg II print, and if so, why?

AJM: Though I love them all, I’d say I had the most fun creating the Tahoe edition. Folks that have followed my work know that I have a love for skulls and bones that goes way back to my college days and my early influences of Georgia O’Keeffe. It’s totally not a death-thing, it’s a beauty-thing. I find the organic shapes and intricacies of the form just fascinating. The Tahoe print was also a return to working from “real life” for me, I actually had that deer skull set up and lit in my studio and managed to get my hands on an old single action revolver to draw from. Reference photos are great, but there’s nothing like having the real thing in front of you to work from.

Have you ever done a quadtych before this MSG run? Did the process pose unique issues or challenges that other triptychs and diptychs haven’t?

This will be my first quadtych ever. The biggest challenge is really the scale of the whole project. Even though the quad as a whole is broken down into individual panels, each color needs to be printed at basically the same time to ensure consistency in the inks. In essence and edition of 150 prints is really an edition of 600 with carving of 4 plates in between each printing. The scale, however, also provides me with a huge canvas to create an expansive composition. I’m always trying to draw the viewer into my images, and having more space actually makes that easier since there are more opportunities for depth and detail.

Talk a little bit about your inspiration for “The MSG Rapture?”

12.31 Sketch (Masthay)

I started out without much of a concept in mind other than I knew I wanted to use an exterior image of MSG to compliment the interior view from last year’s triptych. I also knew I wanted to bring back the image of the gas mask from the Hampton ’09 “Bass Bomb.” I love working on images for venues that I’ve been to numerous times and I try to draw from personal experience whenever possible. My first time at MSG, not for Phish, but for the Grateful Dead—I think it was ’93—I was young and in college and, honestly, don’t remember much detail from the experience, but I do remember lots of mounted police outside the venue. They were cool, not hassling anyone, just “keeping the peace.” I have a vivid memory of going up and saying hello to one of them and asking if I could pet his horse, which he had no problem with. I know it’s an odd association, but ever since I’ve always had a connection between horses and MSG.

The second half of the concept came from wanting to visually represent how for those four days, MSG is truly the center of the universe for fans, hence the burning sun and rings of planets orbiting the New Year’s Eve panel of the quad. There’s a lot more to it, but I think I’ll leave the rest up to the viewer.

I love the color palette for these prints, especially the sky or outer space. How do you choose the colors you are going to work with in prints? What about this one?

12.28 Sketch (Masthay)

Colors are always tough decisions since it’s just as much about making sure the colors will print correctly as it is about how the colors work in the image. Over the years, I think I’ve developed a “signature” color palette that you will see repeating through many of my works. Using undiluted primary colors against rich blacks and pastel pinks or mauves makes each previous color pop. Another factor that doesn’t translate unless you’re viewing the actual print is the sheen of the ink. I exclusively use oil-based inks, as layers of this ink build up on the paper it develops a gloss that very few artists in the poster world take advantage of. Think of the difference between a photograph printed on regular copy paper versus one printed on high gloss photo paper, the color on the glossy one is going to appear much richer and deeper.

I love how each print in the quadtych can stand alone as a poster for that night. How hard is it to make each print both a standalone piece and part of a whole? For this series? For triptychs in general?

Therein lies the real challenge when composing these multi-night images. I always intend for the pieces to be viewed together as a whole, but I also know that may not always be possible and each panel does need to work on its own. I usually start with the overall composition of all the panels and once that flow is generally in place I’ll work on the composition of each panel individually.

For this quadtych, in particular, some of the small details really pull the individual panels together. Take the streamers for example, without those elements I don’t think the individual panels would be successful, but with them, the flow all of a sudden works.

12.30 Sketch (Masthay)

When do these prints go on sale? Because I have a feeling they are gonna’ fly off your site!

The MSG sets will go up for sale this Friday, November 18th [in two days] at 12 noon EST on my website. I will also be blogging the entire creation process for this edition at . This way anyone who decides to purchase a set can follow along and literally watch their prints being made.

Site: www.masthaystudios.com

Blog: www.masthaystudios.com/wordpress

Thanks for your time AJ, I’ll see you in New York!



Jam of the Day

Timber -> Simple” 11.16.97 II

This vastly underrated Denver ’97 highlight has always lived in the shadow of the band’s monstrous show the following night. But this “Timber” jam—from 14 years ago today—is the bees knees; a filthy combination of groove and psychedelia. The band emerges from the extreme darkness with gorgeous segment of melodic resolution that carries them through dramatic segue into “Simple.”


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Five Posters From Fall

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on November 19th, 2010 by Mr.Miner

10.31.10 - Atlantic City -G.Lucas)

Poster collecting has gotten crazy in the Phish scene these days. These sought-after, limited edition prints often go on sale exactly when doors open, if not hours beforehand outside the venue, all but eliminating the chance for the casual concert-goer to grab one. And hence the allure. Even the nights that all the posters are sold at merch stands when doors open, they are sold out before the show begins, and if the print is a Pollock, its a race to the tables and they are gone in minutes. The aftermarket for this artwork has also blossomed with the $50 prints grabbing up to $200 in the post-tour hype, and even more on EBay. Hiring a different artist for every show or run this Fall, Phish offered a diversity of prints to take home as a souvenir or an investment. Artwork is subjective, and everyone has their own tastes, but these are my five favorite prints from Fall Tour 2010. (Pictures of all prints can be found on Phish’s Facebook page under “Photos”)


5. 10/30 Atlantic City – Artist: Nate Duval (Run of 550)

The middle print of a three-piece holiday set, this one stands out from the rest. Celebrating the honey bee – the state bug of New Jersey – this Queen Beehive with a seeing eye struck me the moment I saw it. While the other two prints in the series are also very cool, the surrounding patterns and bizarre visual effect of this image put it over the top.

10/30 (Duval)


4. 10/26 Manchester, NH – Artist: Ken Taylor (Run of 600)

This print plays off Western Observatory in Derryfield Park, an actual landmark in Manchester, New Hampshire. Artist, Ken Taylor, dropped in on the forum at Phishposters.com saying that his intent for the image was to have the tree symbolize Phish taking over Manchester. Well, Ken’s premonition proved to be on point as Phish took the  New Hampshire town by storm.This fairly dark and mysterious print pops to life in person with the use of metallic inks; not your run of the mill Phish poster

10/26 (Ken Taylor)


3. 10/24 Amherst, MA – Artist: Jim Pollock (Run of 625)

This Pollock print for the second night of Amherst trumps his work on the first by leaps and bounds. Centered on a crest in which each quadrant represents a band member, the words “Boy, Man, God, Shit” surround the central image. Another single – or third – eye appears over the top of the print in the “Phish” font, a theme present on three separate prints this tour. Pollack combined a colonial scene with an underwater theme below the date, as colonists and their horse appear in full snorkel gear. This brightly colored print bursts with detail and has been a pricey purchase in the secondary market.

10/24 (Jim Pollock)


2. 10/22 Providence – Artist: Marq Spusta (Run 650)

This is easily the most detailed print from Fall Tour. Blending an underwater scene with an intricately designed forest, eleven squid cling to an ark at dusk. Jellyfish, sea stars, seahorses (fuckin’ love em!) and other detailed pieces from under the sea surround them in a print that only gets more interesting the more you look at it. Probably many people’s pick for the poster of tour, this one is a visual treat.

10/22 (Marq Spusta)


1. 10/19 Augusta, ME – Artist: Scott Cambpell (Run of 700)

Augusta’s poster is my personal favorite due to its sharp, borderline-animated artwork, dramatic shape, and vibrant colors. Scott Campbell’s pieces have always struck a chord with me, and when I saw this print it immediately caught my eye. Alluding to “Cavern,” the poster includes the lryic “It’s later than you think” above the date of the show. The image portrays light shafts beaming into a cave onto a mud rat detector, or some sort of projector, under a ceiling dripping with stalagtites that spell “Phish.” Aside from any Phishy symbolism, this piece struck me as the boldest and most powerful artwork from of Fall Tour.


Jam of the Day:

Time Loves A Hero > Day Or Night” 10.31.10 II

A stellar segment of Phish’s Waiting For Columbus set.




10.11.10 1st Bank Center, Broomfield, CO

FLAC Torrent (etree), Mp3 Torrent, Megaupload < Links

Official Broomfield Poster

A start-to-finish smoker, the second show of tour provided a huge step forward from night one. The first – and arguably – more exciting set featured a classic “Jim,” “Foam” opener, and a stellar sequence of “Wolfmans,” “Reba,” “Halley’s > Tweezer.” The highlight of this run was “Reba,” a version that would be sitting on the tour’s top-shelf were it not for Augusta’s masterpiece. The set-opening triumvirate of “Golden Age > Piper > Camel Walk” and a late set “Twist” starred in the second half. But no matter how many times Phish tries it, “Number Line” just doesn’t work as a set closer.

I: Runaway Jim, Foam, Back on the Train, Wolfman’s Brother, Reba, Halley’s Comet > Tweezer, What Things Seem*, The Squirming Coil, Run Like an Antelope

II: Golden Age > Piper > Camel Walk, Alaska, Gotta Jibboo, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Twist, Fluffhead, Backwards Down the Number Line

E: Sleeping Monkey, Tweezer Reprise

Source: FOB/DFC > Neumann ak40’s(NOS) > lc3 > km100 > Aerco mp2 @ 20db > Sd 702 @ 24/48 (Taper – gotfob)

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